Ready, set, shop: Have holiday sales gone over the top?

Why is holiday shopping turning into work?
Why is holiday shopping turning into work?
Posted at 12:36 PM, Nov 23, 2016

CINCINNATI -- Just a decade ago, the Christmas Shopping Season started on the Friday after Thanksgiving. People called it Black Friday because that was the day on which retailers went “into the black,” meaning they sold so much stuff that they turned a profit for the full year.

But Black Friday now starts on Thursday Afternoon at The Latest – when many families are still digesting their Thanksgiving Dinner. In addition, there are lots of retailers who now turn their annual profit on Cyber Monday or Small Business Saturday. Not to mention Giving Tuesday, Manic Monday, Green Monday, Singles’ Day, Free Shipping Day, Super Saturday and Christmas Eve.

So, what’s a shopper to do?

“Consumers need to watch the sales,” said Tori Sunderman, a senior associate for retail services at the commercial real estate firm CBRE. “They need to be willing to make multiple visits and shop those different opportunities.”

We’re not just talking store visits. That’s for amateurs.

“I would advise consumers to download the app of each retailer or the mall or shopping center so they’re aware of pop-up sales, flash sales, what’s going on every day of the month,” Sunderman said.

This is starting to sound like work.

But how else would you receive a 10 percent discount on holiday ornaments at MiCA 12/v gift shop in Over-the-Rhine? It’s one of 45 OTR retailers participating in the Over-the-Rhine Chamber’s Holidays in the Bag promotion. It raises money for charity and steers discount offers to shoppers who buy a $15 tote bag, designed each year by a local artist.

MiCA 12/v founders Mike and Carolyn Deininger

“Last year, I think we sold 75,” said Mike Deininger, who runs the store with his wife, Carolyn. Founded in O’Bryonville, MiCA 12/v moved it to 1201 Vine Street in 2007. Deininger expects a double-digit revenue increase this year, thanks to increased foot traffic from the streetcar and holiday promotions around Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

Downtown jeweler Matt Bortz has seen “a huge influx” of shoppers to his Seventh Street store this year. He credits Downtown’s resurgence and a gradually improving economy more than any holiday-related promotional days.

Matt Bortz, owner, Philip Bortz Jeweler on 7th Street downtown

“People are just thinking about the holidays earlier,” he said. “Sales will be up five to 10 percent from last year, based on what I know is coming.”

Who invented these days anyway?

The National Retail Federation is predicting a 3.6 percent increase in holiday sales this year to $655.8 billion. At least seven advertised promotional days will be vying for your wallet share:

  • Thanksgiving Day – Nov. 24 -- It’s not just for parades and turkey any more. Online researcher ComScore reported more than $1 billion in e-commerce spending in each of the last two Thanksgivings. Adobe Digital Insights calls it “the best day to do your online shopping based on low prices and product availability” for jewelry, appliances, computers, sporting goods, tablets and televisions.
  • Black Friday – Nov. 25 -- The trade journal Factory Management and Maintenance first applied this description to the day after Thanksgiving. It was part of a 1951 column about factory workers calling in sick so they could get a four-day weekend. The term spread into the retail industry in the 1970s and ’80s, gradually developing a mythology that this busy shopping day put retailers “into the black.” In other words, people bought so much that stores turned a profit for the full year. The National Retail Federation estimated Black Friday sales at $50.9 billion in 2014, the most recent estimate available.
  • Small Business Saturday – Nov. 26 -- American Express got the ball rolling in 2009 with its promotional event aimed at helping small businesses recover from the recession. But hundreds of trade groups and the U.S. Small Business Administration have joined the bandwagon. The National Federation of Independent Business said more than 95 million shoppers took part in events aimed at encouraging consumers to shop local, generating $16.2 billion in 2015 sales.
  • Cyber Monday – Nov. 28 – It’s a marketing term to encourage online buying that first appeared in a press release in 2005. Within five years, it was a $1 billion thing. Last year, online and mobile sales reached $3.1 billion on Cyber Monday, according to ComScore.
  • Giving Tuesday – Nov. 29 -- A social-media movement that’s aimed at designating the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as a day of giving in the U.S. The event raised $116 million from 700,000 people in 70 countries last year, according to the official web site, The Cincinnati Ballet, Zoo and Chamber Orchestra are among the organizations listed on the website.
  • Green Monday – Dec. 12 – This is a term coined by eBay to describe the second Monday in December, its busiest day of the year. ComScore estimated Green Monday sales at $1.6 billion in 2014. Adobe Digital Insights predicts it will reach $2 billion for the first time this year.
  • Super Saturday – Nov. 17 – The last Saturday before Christmas, sometimes called Panic Saturday, often brings a new round of discounts to attract last-minute shoppers. It produced $55 billion in online and in-store revenue last year, according to the private-equity firm, Customer Growth Partners.

One of Cincinnati’s newest CEOs has a unique perspective on the holiday shopping season. Moulay Essakalli, founder of the Brandery startup Zid Zid, grew up in Morocco, attended French schools, married a Toledo native and worked in Boston and Tangiers before relocating to Cincinnati in June.

In his view, no one does Christmas like America.

Moulay Essakalli (left) and wife Julie Klear of Cincinnati are the creators of Zid Zid, a language-teaching program for young children.

“Not at this scale, no,” he said. “Europe is pretty good at it. But no country in Europe can measure up.”

While he appreciates the family traditions and economic impact of the holiday shopping season, Essakalli sees a lot of waste in our annual buying binge – with tons of trinkets and packing materials that end up in landfills.

“My wife (Zid Zid co-founder Julie Klear) is very much into Christmas,” Essakalli said. “She’s very traditional that way, so I go along with it. If it were up to me, I’d do a very light version of it.”

But that won’t keep Essakalli from making a special holiday offer, as he approaches a January launch for Zid Zid, an online service that teaches pre-school children languages by engaging kids and their parents in games and activities. Essakalli is hoping to launch by Cyber Monday a 20 percent discount and three free months of service to those who commit to its $19.99 monthly membership.

Check out our complete Black Friday guide with ads from your favorite stores. Want even more deals? Check out the latest coupons and discounts from our circulars page at